A healthy job market bolsters US wine and spirits

By Beth Newhart

- Last updated on GMT

A potential aggressor to the market is European tariffs, particularly in wine trade with France. Pic: Getty/BrianAJackson
A potential aggressor to the market is European tariffs, particularly in wine trade with France. Pic: Getty/BrianAJackson

Related tags Wine Wine makers spirits Jobs Employment

Both large and small US wine and spirits (W&S) companies have been more progressive and competitive with work benefits and compensation than the market average, according to a talent report from ForceBrands.

ForceBrands has put the W&S workforce under a microscope in its recent Talent Market Report. The New York-based recruiting service surveyed more than 500 executives in consumer products, and found about 15% fell under W&S.

They determined that W&S companies are treating their employees better than other categories within beverage alcohol, with more attractive benefits, perks and compensation at both large and small brands.

“The wine and spirits industry has changed dramatically over the last decade, namely due to sweeping global trends like consolidation and the influence of the health and wellness movement,”​ the ForceBrands report said.

“Today’s market is largely dominated by a handful of top brands that are focused on appealing to more health conscious consumers. As a result, low-alc beverages are gaining in popularity.”

Enticing talent with flexible perks

Josh Wand, founder of ForceBrands, told BeverageDaily that small W&S companies are giving about 6% annual raises, with large on average giving 14%. He said this is about double the national average compared to other competitive sectors.

“The ​[W&S] industry is learning to be more progressive in an effort to help capture younger talent. Companies are honoring work-life balance and offering benefits that help support families like on-site childcare and in vitro financial assistance,”​ the report said.

Large companies are on board with traditional benefits like paid maternity leave (83%) and dental insurance (73%), while smaller companies make up for any gaps with perks like off-site social events (43%), free meals (38%) and the flexibility to work from home (40%).

Trending benefits likely to be introduced at W&S companies in the next few years, according to ForceBrands, are paid sabbaticals, tuition reimbursement and summer hours.

"Relocation packages are generous among large wine and spirits companies with more than half of large companies covering storage costs and moving services,"​ the report said.

Trade trouble could loom ahead

A potential aggressor to the market is European tariffs, according to Wand. The ForceBrands report does not touch on trade, but Wand believes that wine trade between the EU and the US is ‘pretty uneven,’ pointing to the 4.5bn units of EU exports to the US in 2017, more than eight times the US exports to the EU (550m).

In addition, the EU charges higher tariffs on US wine imported into the region, compared to US tariffs on European wines. US President Donald Trump has weighed in on the issue this summer, calling the discrepancy ‘not fair’ and promising to ‘do something about it.’

France signed a digital services tax last week, targeting major American tech companies. Trump immediately threatened 'substantial reciprocal action' by imposing tariffs on French wine. 

Trump has personal interest in the wine industry; his family has owned a winery in Virginia since 2011. It’s possible that he could add this tariff battle to his existing list of trade disputes with China, Canada and Mexico.

“I don’t think there’s any end in sight to these battles,”​ Wand said.

Still, Wand sees the W&S industries maintaining growth and retention in the near future. He believes the labor market and compensation benefits are only getting healthier, and that alcohol consumption will remain steady.

“Just having perspective on industries, it really feels like wine and spirits and beverage alcohol is super healthy. There’s a ton of job opportunities, the labor market looks good and there’s an opportunity to have great, clear growth and to make a great living,”​ Wand said.

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